Yankees breakout starter Clarke Schmidt lands on IL; how can New York fill his rotation spot?

By ERA and WAR, the New York Yankees have had one of the best rotations in baseball this season even though reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole has yet to throw a pitch. Cole went down with nerve inflammation in his elbow in spring training and is working his way back. Without him, the rotation has been as good as the Yankees could have possibly hoped.

New York’s depth will now be tested. Righty Clarke Schmidt was placed on the 15-day injured list Thursday with a right lat strain, the Yankees announced. Schmidt last pitched on Sunday and afterward he said it was “one of those outings where you don’t feel like your best,” according to the New York Post. Manager Aaron Boone said Schmidt will not throw for 4-6 weeks, per Newsday.

Schmidt, 28, was enjoying a breakout season prior to the injury. He’d thrown 60 2/3 innings in his 11 starts with a 2.52 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Opponents had a .224/.304/.356 batting line against him and Schmidt has one of the largest year-over-year strikeout rate increases in baseball. The 2017 first-round pick had started delivering on his promise.

The Baseball Prospectus Recovery Dashboard says lat strains can sidelined pitchers anywhere from 15 days to the entire season, which is not especially helpful. Former Yankee Luis Severino missed approximately two months with lat strains in 2022 and 2023. The 4-6 week shutdown suggests Schmidt, who set a new career high by 66 innings in 2023, will miss at least two months.

Cole is throwing to hitters as part of his rehab work, though he has not yet begun an official minor-league rehab assignment. That could happen as soon as next week. Regardless, he is several weeks away from rejoining the rotation. New York’s rotation depth chart looks like this at the moment:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (out with nerve inflammation in his elbow)
  2. RHP Luis Gil
  3. LHP Carlos Rodón
  4. RHP Marcus Stroman
  5. LHP Nestor Cortes
  6. RHP Clarke Schmidt (out with lat strain)
  7. RHP Cody Poteet (on Triple-A injured list)
  8. RHP Clayton Beeter (on Triple-A injured list)
  9. RHP Will Warren
  10. RHP Yoendrys Gómez

Poteet has been dealing with a blister and Boone said he will come off the Triple-A injured list and be called up to start in Schmidt’s place Saturday, per the New York Post. Poteet made a spot start earlier this season — it was his first MLB action since 2022 — and threw six innings of one-run ball against the first place Cleveland Guardians. 

Warren, New York’s best healthy pitching prospect, last pitched Sunday and lined up perfectly to make Saturday’s start. He’s been on a terrible run in Triple-A of late though — 31 runs in his last four starts and 17 innings — and the Yankees presumably want him to get on track before calling him up. Gómez was sent down Monday and can not be recalled until he spends 15 days in the minors.  

Cortes, Gil, Rodón, Schmidt, and Stroman have combined to start 56 of New York’s 57 games. Poteet drew a stray spot start in April because of a rainout and a doubleheader, not because someone got hurt or needed to be replaced for performance reasons. Even with Cole out, the Yankees were on a very good run of pitcher health before Schmidt’s injury.

Cole is still several weeks away — he’s going to need multiple minor-league rehab starts — and the Yankees will have to figure out how to bridge the gap between Schmidt’s injury and Cole’s return. Poteet gets the first opportunity to fill the rotation spot. New York’s starting rotation has been excellent overall this season, but their depth is being tested now.

The Yankees enter play Thursday atop the AL East with a 38-19 record. They are allowing only 3.14 runs per game, far and away the fewest in baseball. The Kansas City Royals are a distant second at 3.42 runs allowed per game.

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